Nashville, Tenn. — Former Michigan standout Taylor Lewan has waited and planned for the day when the Tennessee Titans would reward him with a new multimillion-dollar contract.
So the quirky and gifted left tackle was ready when the Titans signed him Friday to a five-year, $80 million contract, making Lewan the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman.
Lewan came out to meet reporters flanked by his offensive line teammates to the theme song from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” wearing an all-white suit topped off by a white cowboy hat, with a cigar in his mouth. Center Ben Jones even brought along Lewan’s stuffed beaver, Steve, a locker room decoration.
“I actually got the suit done like just a couple of days before camp and literally had no idea if I was going to sign or not, but might as well be prepared,” Lewan said.
Why come out as Boss Hogg?
“We did a whole deal as a joke, but in all seriousness this is unbelievable,” Lewan said of his teammates. “You’re not going to find a better O-Line room, that’s for sure.”
The Titans did not disclose specific terms, but multiple reports said Lewan will receive $50 million guaranteed. That tops the four-year, $62 million deal Nate Solder got from the New York Giants in March. The team wrapped up negotiations before its second practice of training camp after talks progressed quickly enough that Lewan reported on time Wednesday .
The Pro Bowler skipped the mandatory minicamp in June because of stalled talks. Now he’ll be averaging $16 million a year under the new deal with a team looking for a second straight playoff berth.
“I’m extremely happy to be part of this team for a few more years, and I think it’s going to be a special few years for all of us,” Lewan said.
Coach Mike Vrabel thanked general manager Jon Robinson and his staff for wrapping up Lewan’s deal. The first-time head coach didn’t have any issue with Lewan’s colorful celebration.
“My job is make sure that they work on the field, and part of this process is having fun,” Vrabel said. “Part of becoming a team is having fun and working hard together and having fun together.”
Lewan, who turned 27 last weekend, was the 11th overall selection out of Michigan in 2014. The 6-foot-7, 309-pounder had been due $9.34 million this season under the fifth-year option the Titans picked up last year. He has started 53 of 58 games, including every game the past two seasons, protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota’s blind side.
Lewan’s new deal keeps the Tennessee starting offensive line intact for Vrabel. The only remaining issue on the line concerns right tackle Jack Conklin, who is recovering from a torn ligament in his left knee that he suffered during the divisional playoff loss in New England.
With Lewan as ringleader, the Titans’ offensive linemen have been protecting Mariota on the field and having fun off the field. Their best highlights have come at playoff games for the NHL’s Nashville Predators with the linemen waving catfish and drinking beer before the puck dropped. Lewan even chugged a beer using a catfish last spring.
The beaver, with its own fedora, was a gifted to Lewan from his now-wife. The beaver pops up in different places around the locker room.
“This city’s been awesome,” Lewan said. “I think with some of my antics and some of the stuff the O-line does, I don’t think we’d be welcome very much on other teams. I think Nashville’s taken us in just fine.”